What’s the worst way you could imagine spending a Saturday afternoon? For me, it might be the thought of being forced to forlornly wander the docks, approaching sailors and offering to wank them off for coins. For you it might be peacefully browsing around your favourite record store only have your experience ruined by a gaggle of squealing teenage girls that are so teeth-grindingly irritating that you suddenly snap and begin tossing jazz CDs into their shrieking mouths just to try and make them. Shut. The . Hell. Up! Or how about spending it with a bunch of twenty and thirty-something hipsters, drinking some of Australasia’s finest beers? If you picked the last option then you might want to click away now.
But of course, I’m just being wag: GABS was great, especially after having been forced to suffer the nightmarish dystopia of the Brew NZ festival at Auckland's Cloud venue for several years, which managed to somehow simultaneously operate with all the efficiency of a North Korean soup kitchen whilst costing an absolute fucking fortune to attend (probably to the point that patrons were actually forced to offer to wank off sailors for coins just to afford the ridiculously expensive thimbles of beer on offer. The horror.) Leave it, then, to our Aussie cousins to show us how it’s done by lending us their rather fab Great Australasian Beer SpecTapular that’s been running since 2011 in Sydney and Melbourne and is considered one of the best beer festivals in the world. 'What?' scoffed a Wellingtonian, 'Better than Beervana?!' Actually, I wouldn’t know. I have to confess that I’ve never been to Beervana because some of us have to, you know, work for a living.
Yes, but was GABS Auckland 2016 any Good?
Well, it was in fact, GREAT. Ok, Ok so it was only their first attempt here in NZ so I’m sure it wasn’t quite the polished spectacle they usually manage to put on for the punters in OZ, but it seemed very well organised - from the water boys and girls walking around with their ghostbusters-style-proton-pack water dispensers to the plentiful benches and the excellent ‘Kegtainer’ style bar in the centre of the hall from which you could fill your 285ml Coopers Festival Glass or take advantage of the sample paddles, which allowed you to select up to 5 85ml samples to take away and try. The NZ breweries themselves were well represented in stalls that lined the perimeter of the hall and if you're interested in the science and art of brewing, or just shooting the shit with brewers, then it was a real treat. It was a pleasure, also, to be able to engage with a delegation from the UK, USA and Oz.
Kudos too, goes to the craft beer community who turned out in force despite the miserable weather and the fact that the All Blacks were playing later that evening, to support the event. Everyone was extremely good natured and there were no problems (that I witnessed) with hordes of drunk beer lovers blitzkrieging their way through schools and nunneries in an unstoppable orgy of drunken violence - which I'm sure the Public Health Warriors and Authoritarians of the District Licensing Agency were very disappointed about.
Sounds great! But come on, you're a hate-filled misanthrope. Surely there was something you didn't like?
Not really! It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and I can't stress enough what a well oiled machine the whole festival was and what a great vibe the festival hall had. Oh ok, if you really want to hear me gripe then my only real issue was with the stupid GABS currency card which you have to preload with money before you can purchase anything: why can't I just use my credit card? Yes I know there a number of practical reasons for it, but it's annoying when you have to wait in a queue to buy your beers only to find that you're 80cents short which means you have to move to another part of the hall to get your card topped up and then rejoin the original queue again to get your beer. Vexing. Oh, and I realise a large proportion of craft beer enthusiasts are bespectacled, plaid shirt wearing hipsters, but do we really have to have table tennis, jumbo Jenga and a silent disco at our Beer fest? Yes, very minor gripes, but when you're an irascible curmudgeon like me it does grate a little.
The most pleasing thing is that GABS Auckland was successful enough to warrant it's return to our fair city next year. GABS Auckland 2017 is scheduled to return on Saturday 17 June, so if you missed out this year make sure you've got the date marked in your calendar. See you soooooooon............